The current planning laws say that amenity areas like bowling greens should not be zoned for building development if they are being used by a significantly sized group of people.
However, John Woodcock’s Bill aims to provide the facility to tighten these laws to make sure that all reasonable steps are taken to preserve the green; only allowing sale to developers as a last resort. This would include provision to offer greens to user groups first at market rates.
In a radio discussion about the bill there was also an interview with Alex Marsh, author of Sex, Bowls and Rock n Roll and as a result the discussion was dominated by talk about the image of the game.
The presenter thought the game had an image of being mainly for retired people dressed in white.
Alex Marsh disagreed and said that bowls was a game for all ages, but also said that he was attracted to the game by the image of standing around on a nice afternoon with a pint and not having to break into a sweat because he was too fat for anything more strenuous.
John Woodcock defended the game by saying that there were still upwards of 400,000 participants in the UK and that bowling was still an important feature of the British Landscape; a point built upon by Robert Long, a caller from Skipton who described how his club was currently fighting against proposals by the local council to use their green to extend a local car park.
Robert went on to describe his club as an oasis of green in a desert of concrete. Ironically the council need the extra car parking space because there are so many visitors to the town; many of whom according to Robert, end up at the club admiring the gardens and relaxing in the grounds to eat their packed lunch, many of them showing interest in the game and club while they are there.
While Robert’s club in Skipton are actively campaigning to stop the developers, there were a few contributors to the show who complained variously about the council failing to cut their green, or not looking after their club’s interests.
My point in reporting this is two-fold; firstly to make readers aware of this important discussion on national radio and of John Woodcock’s Bill in Parliament. Incidentally you can still listen to the show on the BBC iplayer here:
You can skip straight to the discussion by forwarding the time slider to 1:41 or thereabouts.
However, my main point here is that although John Woodcock’s Bill is most welcome and if successful will put in place a layer of protection for clubs in danger of closing, it won’t protect those clubs that fail to be pro-active and take action to protect their own future.
You have to wait until the dying seconds of the show for a reader’s email that says his club has invested £70,000 in re-furbishing its facilities in order to diversify its “business” and provide accommodation for functions etc…
The overall impression for a neutral person listening in would have been:
- Bowls has an image problem and is just for old people.
- Bowls is a game full of whiners, who like to moan and groan but aren’t so good at taking action.
Now where have we seen or heard that before?
Its time for Action and Not Words if we are to save our clubs.
Bowling Club Survival and Turnaround is still available!